13 years on, families hope for justice in Laxmanpur-Bathe massacre


Patna : Thirteen years after the Laxmanpur-Bathe massacre in which 58 Dalits were killed by upper caste men, families of the victims are hoping that justice will finally triumph with a Bihar court Wednesday slated to pronounce its verdict on the case.

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“We are at last hoping for justice,” Balram Paswan, a relative of one of the victim’s who was killed, said shortly before the Patna court of Additional District and Sessions Judge Vijay Prakash Mishra pronounces his verdict.

A police officer associated with the probe said charges were framed against 44 men of the upper caste militia Ranvir Sena on Dec 23, 2008 on charges of killing 58 people, including 27 women and 10 children.

Jailed Ranvir Sena chief Barmeshwar Singh, alias Mukhiajee, was one of the accused in the case.

During the hearing, 91 of the 152 witnesses deposed before the court. Forty-seven people have been accused in the case but three are absconding.

Laxmanpur-Bathe situated on the banks of the Sone river in Jehananabad district was targeted by armed Ranvir Sena men, who butchered Dalits to death on Dec 1, 1997.

According to police records, four Dalit families were completely wiped out in the bloodbath.

Soon after the Laxmanpur-Bathe massacre, the state government then led by Rabri Devi set up the Amir Das Commission to probe the political connections of the Ranvir Sena.

But the commission was wrapped up by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar soon after he came to power in 2006. Opposition parties, including the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML), alleged that the Nitish Kumar government was protecting the interests of the Ranvir Sena and suppressing the voice of the poorest of the poor.